Tennessee accepts donated land for Bradley County veterans home

Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder addresses an audience of veterans and local and state officials during a ceremony recognizing the state's official acceptance of donated property for the planned Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home. The future site of the facility is located on rolling pastoral property on Westland Drive.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Veterans joined local and state officials Friday to commemorate the state's official acceptance of property donated for use as the future site of a planned $40 million Bradley County State Veterans Home.

Land donors Robert Wright, Steve Williams, Thomas Williams and trustees of American Legion Post 81 were honored at a ceremony held on the donated property, located on a parcel of rolling pastureland on Westland Drive.

Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder praised the donors and others who have dedicated their time, love and support to the facility and the regions' aging veteran population.

"I know this has been a long and challenging journey for all of our local partners," Grinder said. "However, today is a day to celebrate their hard work, unwavering commitment and generosity, which we believe will one day culminate in the establishment of a Tennessee State Veterans Home in Cleveland."

Officials also recognized other key supporters of the veterans home project, which was launched in 2003.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis thanked Larry McDaris, director of the county's veterans service office, and the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council for their dedication.

Since its creation in 2004, the council has tirelessly kept the proposed home in the minds of state officials and the public, while the project has almost been a full-time job for McDaris in the last several years, Davis said.

"This a big milestone," said McDaris, calling it the result of long-standing cooperative efforts.

Officials cited an anonymous $3 million donation as a key catalyst for the project, which requires a $7 million local match in addition to donated land.

Bradley County and Cleveland each have committed $2 million to the project, fulfilling the match requirement.

Combined with $7.1 million in state allocations, the project is now awaiting $26 million in federal funding, which will cover 65 percent of the home's estimated construction costs.

Grinder has acknowledged that the federal funding piece is expected to be a challenge, due to decreasing federal dollars allocated to veterans home needs and the prioritization of facilities requesting safety improvements.

The Bradley veterans home project now is ranked No. 66 on the fiscal year 2016 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs State Home Construction Grants Priority 1 list, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services.

The current veterans home design calls for the construction of nine homes that will accommodate 108 beds. Each home includes separate cottages with a central lounge area and individual kitchens and fireplaces.

Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall, co-chairman of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council, praised the future site of the facility.

"Look at this place," said Hall, gazing over the surrounding quiet green space. "It looks and feels very therapeutic. It will be a great home for our veterans."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.